As a woman of menstruating age, your period is your body’s monthly “report” card—signaling if your hormones are “balanced” or not.
So what does it mean if you don’t have your period at all? Something is not right “under the hood.”
Here’s all you need to know about “amenorrhea” or “period loss” and how to get your period back if it’s missing…
The Period Loss Dilemma
One of the most common questions you get asked at any doctor’s appointment you go to is:
“When was the first day of your last period?”
And…you can’t even remember!
Although it’s sort of nice not having to ‘deal with’ the red tide or crazy chocolate cravings every month…In the back of your mind, you wonder, Am I really healthy? (given you are of ‘menstruating age)…
And, if not, how can I get my period back?
The Reality: You are not alone.
Period Loss Statistics
It’s an epidemic no one is really talking about, but one that is more common than you think.
In a room full of 10 women…
- 1 in 10 menstruating women haven’t had their period in over three months
- 1 in 2 regularly active women lose their period (not just athletes, but women who train recreationally)
- 8 to 9 women (out of 10) experience PMS or irregular cycles (lighter or heavier flows, spotting, “hangriness”, emotional outbursts)
Hormone “Balance”: What it Means & How a Healthy Period Should Work
“Hormone balance” basically means your hormones are working “normally”—as they should.
In case of your period, “hormone balance” would mean a “normal” regular cycle with minimal PMS symptoms.
Here’s a review of how healthy menstruation should work:
Period Anatomy & Physiology: Key Points
FSH + LH Hormones Tell Your Ovaries to Do Their Job
Two hormones are crucial to healthy menstruation: Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinizing Hormone (LH).
FH and LSH they tell the ovaries to “do their job”—create estrogen and progesterone, as well as reproduction eggs. If FH and LSH are really low, then they can’t signal estrogen and progesterone production!
Your Ovaries Work Hard to Support Reproduction & Menstruation
Your ovaries have two primary jobs:
- Job 1: Create follicles and eggs (for reproduction and menstruation)
- Job 2: Produce and control the release of two “female” hormones: Estrogen and Progesterone (the major hormones that control your menstrual cycle).
Estrogen & Progesterone Levels Fluctuate Throughout the Month (Your 28 Day “Cycle”)
As estrogen and progesterone levels rise and fall throughout the month (a full cycle lasting 28 days), they signal your hypothalamus and pituitary glands (HPA Axis) to balance your hormones and release FSH and LH at different times—helping your ovaries keep doing their job (controlling reproduction and menstruation).
How Your Period Works
Once you understand the basic hormones behind your period, the 28 day cycle makes so much more sense.
After all, your menstrual cycle is more than just a period! Your menstrual cycle starts with the first day of your period and ends when your next period begins. In between, there’s ALOT of hormone “ups and downs.”
The 3 Menstrual Cycle Phases
Over the course of 28 days, your cycle is broken up into three primary phases:
Phase 1: follicular (days 1-12)
Phase 2: ovulation (days 12-16)
Phase 3: luteal (days 17-28)
Here’s a brief overview of each.
Phase 1: Follicular Phase (“Your Period”)
The follicular phase is further divided into two parts:
- Your Period (days 1-7)
- Proliferation (days 8-14)
Your period basically means “the shedding of the uterine lining.” Old blood and tissue from inside the uterus is shed through the vagina. A normal period lasts between 5 to 8 days. During this phase, levels of estrogen and progesterone are also very low, but estrogen gradually rises as an egg prepares to be released.
After the period, the uterine lining builds back up again.
Fun Fact: The follicular phase is also the time when your muscles and gym performance is also the strongest and most likely to see progress in the gym. Researchers hypothesize this is due to the gradual rise in estrogen during this cycle, and its possible effects on protein synthesis and muscle rebuilding.
Phase 2: Ovulation Phase
Entails the release of an egg from the ovary into the fallopian tube. Estrogen peaks just beforehand, and then drops shortly afterwards. Ovulation usually happens about days 12-14 of your cycle—right in the middle.
Phase 3: Luteal Phase
The Luteal Phase is the time between ovulation and before the start of menstruation.
Progesterone is produced, peaks, and then drops. The big hormonal changes of the luteal phase are associated with common PMS symptoms including: mood changes, headaches, acne, bloating, and breast tenderness.
This is also the phase when you may become pregnant (if an egg is fertilized). If the egg is not fertilized, estrogen and progesterone levels drop and, on Day 28, your period begins again.
Why Your Period is Necessary
As mentioned previously, your period is a monthly health report card.
Simply put: As a woman of menstruating age (i.e. pre-menopause), there’s no getting around the fact that a regular period indicates your body is in a happier place (i.e. internal homeostasis, adequate healthy body fat, balanced stress levels).
Although a period is by no means the ONLY marker of “perfect health”, it is one barometer that suggests your internal processes (i.e. hormones) are at least functioning—especially if you don’t experience “horrible” PMS or PMDD (these can also be a sign of hormone imbalance).
Why Your Period Goes Missing
Unfortunately, if your body is unable to release your FSH and LH hormones in your hypothalamus and pituitary glands due to stress, then your ovaries can’t do their job (producing estrogen and progesterone).
In turn, your hormones are “low” and get out of balance—leading to irregular cycles, hormone “imbalance” and amenorrhea (period loss).
The good news? Your period isn’t necessarily lost forever—it just can’t function at its peak!
Often times, your FSH and LH hormones are still in tact—they are just low, (really low), and your cortisol levels (stress hormones) are high. You are still ovulating (dropping an egg), but you are simply not menstruating—or bleeding—during that time of the month. Your body is unable to carry out the full cleansing process and shedding of your uterine lining.
Causes of Amenorrhea
Amenorrhea has multiple causes including:
- Ovarian failure or abnormality
- Thyroid Dysfunction (hypothyroidism)
- Low estrogen production
- Immune dysfunction
- Genetic abnormalities
- Liver imbalances (where estrogen is metabolized)
- HPA Axis Dysregulation (a.k.a. Stress)
Although many of these are worth consideration, the primary cause of most cases of secondary amenorrhea is stress of your HPA-Axis, resulting in a diagnosis of “Hypothalamic Amenorrhea” (“secondary amenorrhea”—not caused by a structural or biochemical factor, but rather stress and outside triggers)
Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Criteria
Individuals with “Hypothalamic Amenorrhea” typically meet the following criteria:
- Bloodwork: Normal or low FSH or LH levels
- Lack of period for 3 months
- Stress Markers (low body fat or bodyweight, disordered eating, overtraining, high stress or anxiety)
- Other Possible Markers (Not Necessary to Test):
The HPA Axis-Period Connection
Your HPA Axis is your body’s “stress response” or “fight or flight” system that consists of 3 primary organs:
- Adrenal Glands
Your HPA Axis is vital for helping your body “overcome” stress and balance your hormones—especially cortisol (your stress hormones). Unfortunately if cortisol is too high from acute stress, or too low from chronic stress, then your sex hormones—including estrogen, progesterone and testosterone also get out of balance.
(This is why if you lose your period due to stress, it is called “Hypothalamic Amenorrhea”).
How Your HPA Axis Effects Your Hormones
Here’s how each part of your HPA Axis effects your hormones and period.
Your hypothalamus is the part of your brain that controls the release of hormones (like estrogen and progesterone) from the pituitary gland.
Your pituitary gland’s main function is to secrete hormones into your bloodstream.
The adrenal glands are small glands located on top of each kidney. They also produce hormones that you can’t live without, including sex hormones and cortisol. Cortisol helps you respond to stress. With adrenal gland dysfunction, your glands make too much or not enough hormones.
The Bottom Line: Stress on your HPA Axis is the #1 reason why your period “goes missing.”
If your HPA Axis is “balanced” (not stressed), then your period “monthly report card” can happen normally and practically symptom free.
However, if your HPA Axis is under-functioning or overly stressed, then what do you think happens to the balance of your hormones and your period? Exactly.
Depending on the stress and your health history, your period goes missing or you get tons of PMS symptoms or other hormone imbalances! (After all, the LAST thing your body wants to do if it thinks it’s running from a bear or saber tooth tiger is make a baby or nourish another life—especially if it can’t keep up with you!)
Top Sources of Amenorrhea Stress
Some of the most common sources of stress that trigger hypothalamic amenorrhea include:
- Under-eating & Disordered Eating
- Missing essential macronutrients (fats, carbs, proteins0
- Lack of quality sleep
- Weight loss
- Low body fat/catabolism
- People pleasing
- Lack of rest/recovery (in your schedule)
What Happens to Your Body if Your Period Goes Missing?
Although it may not seem so bad to skip that “time of the month” (especially if you get cramps or mood swings), there are several “down sides” to missing your period, including:
Poor Bone Health
Absence of periods for more than one year can cause loss of bone density and increase the risk of stress fractures during sports. It can also increase the risk of osteoporosis later in life.
As much as periods get a ‘bad rep’ for causing mood swings and crazy emotional patterns, when you miss your period (frequently), you can actually end up feeling pretty…flat (i.e. not vibrant, ‘like yourself’, lively, energetic). Hormones are hugely responsible for our emotions and moods (both good and bad). When we are periodless, we can also feel somewhat lifeless.
Increased Internal Stress
When our periods are out of whack though, chances are your adrenals are out of whack as well. “Cortisol’ is the ‘fight or flight’ hormone your adrenals are specifically responsible for releasing and remitting—however, with dysfunctional estrogen/testosterone balance as well during an irregular period, cortisol levels are generally hyper or hypo-functioning (over or under functioning) as well, leaving your body, well…stressed. In order to cope with stress, the LAST THING your body wants to do is bring on the stress (or potential) for baby-making. Even if you don’t want a baby right now…internal stress ultimately leaves our bodies ‘all wound up’ (resulting in impaired recovery from exercise; low energy; impaired digestion; anxiety; foggy brain function; etc.).
A regular period also is also an energy booster—while a missed period is an energy depleter.
Decreased Sex Drive
Hormones are responsible for our “love connection”. When our periods are out of sync or non-existent, our sex hormones are definitely not in “drive”mode. This is obviously as nature intended, because more than likely, when your period is out of sync, your body is not innately in a place to want to ‘make a baby’ or house a baby (your body is trying to find balance and take care first and foremost of you).
Gut Dysbiosis + Leaky Gut
The gut microbiome plays a central role in the regulation of estrogen. In fact, the gut is now being called the “estrobolome”—since it consists of several bacteria capable of metabolizing and activating estrogens. Gut dysbiosis (disrupted gut bacteria) has the potential to alter the estrobolome, disrupt estrogen homeostasis, and impair these processes.
When the gut microbiome is healthy, the estrobolome produces just the right amount of beta-glucuronidase (an enzyme that activates estrogen) and your body maintains estrogen “homeostasis” (balance). However, if gut dysbiosis is present, beta-glucuronidase activity may be altered, consequently reducing estrogen in your body.
Additionally, a reduction in gut bacteria diversity—particularly from restrictive diet, nutrient-poor diet or eating the same things everyday—leads to a decrease in the estrogen metabolism through a lack of estrogen metabolizing bacteria as well as other metabolic effects such as a reduction of short chain fatty acids.
The Bottom Line: If you have amenorrhea or other hormone imbalances, there is a big chance that your gut bacteria are also out of sync.
Typical Amenorrhea Treatment (& Why it Doesn’t Always Work)
So your period went missing…what to do about it? The typical conventional treatment for losing your period entails:
- Birth Control. Going on the “pill” or synthetic hormones to “get your period back”
- More Workup. Assessment of your pituitary function (i.e. CT or MRI scans of your organs)
- Gain Weight Orders. Your doctor telling you to “just gain weight”
- SSRI’s are often prescribed to “treat stress” along with a prescription for therapy.
Although these approaches sound good in theory…they don’t really help you target or address the root cause(s) stressor(s) that caused your period to go missing in the first place!
Additionally, taking synthetic hormones or the pill as your “first line” approach to treating amenorrhea come with their own long list of side effects, including:
- Further disrupted gut microbiome (IBS, SIBO, Dysbiosis, Candida, bloating, constipation)—In fact, two big studies of American women linked oral contraceptive use with Crohn’s.
- Suppressed natural estrogen production
- Further provoking/stressing out the HPA Axis & cortisol production
- Toxic liver burden & impaired detoxification
Researchers speculate that impaired immune function, dysbiosis (out-of-balance gut bacteria), and increased intestinal permeability (aka “leaky gut”) are potential causes.
The alternative to the “pill” or doctors who just tell you to “gain more weight” (but with little more direction)? Try these 10 (natural) essentials first instead.
The cool thing? To date, I’ve seen a 99% success rate working with clients worldwide to get their period back using these simple, but effective, measures.
10 Essentials to Get Your Period Back Naturally
- Just Breathe
- Make a To-Don’t List
- Eat Enough
- Have No Fear (carbs, fats, proteins)
- Get Your Beauty Sleep
- Cut the Chronic Cardio
- Build Strength (from Inside Out)
- Love Your Gut
- Support Your Liver + HPA Axis
- Connect (things you love, people, heart-laugh, less t
- Just Breathe
Unless you’re actively managing your stress and allowing your body and brain to relax and recuperate, your body’s stress signals will just keep firing and eventually cause some pretty severe dysfunction in your body.
Your breath is one of the most powerful tools you have to manage stress and calm a hyper-active “HPA Axis”—often the root cause of amenorrhea. Breathing is something you do more than 20,000 times per day—so how are you breathing? Many folks fall into the “stress” trap of NOT taking complete, full, nourishing deep breaths through their nose and using their belly to breathe. Improper breathing sets you up for problems with hormone metabolism, blood pH, core function, gut bacteria balance and how much blood is getting to your brain and muscles—all which allow cortisol to stay elevated.
Common signs of improper breathing include:
- Inhaling with your chest
- Mouth breathing
- Tight shoulders and upper neck muscles
- High resting breath rate (over 12 breaths per minute)
- Non-expanding rib cage when you breathe
How to use the power of breath to balance cortisol and hormone health:
- Nose breathing: Ideally you want the majority of your breaths to come in through your nose. Mouth breathing elevates the stress response. If you struggle with stuffy sinuses, consider trying a cleansing citrus nasal spray to clear pathogens in your airway.
- 4-7-8 breathing:Begin by placing the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue behind the upper front teeth. With a quiet inhale through the nose and an audible exhale through the mouth, inhale for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of 7, and then exhale through your mouth, making a whooshing sound for a count of 8. Repeat this cycle at least three more times.
- Belly breathe: Take a deep breath and focus on expanding your belly, rather than your chest. Watch your abdomen fill up as you breathe in and flatten as you breathe out.
- Alternate nose breathing: Begin by pressing your thumb on your right nostril and breathe out gently through your left nostril. Next, breathe in through the left nostril gently, and press the left nostril closed with a different finger. Remove your thumb from the right nostril and breathe out through the right nostril. Next, breathe through the right nostril, close the nostril, and then exhale from the left. Continue with this pattern alternating between nostrils.
- Make a To-Don’t List
Face it, you’re busy. From work deadlines, your social calendar, daily lifestyle activities—like meal prep and fitness, meetings, chores and beyond, it’s easy to “stack” your “to do” list with tons of “to do’s”. However, when we “burn a candle at both ends”, eventually our internal stress reserves get depleted.
Stacking your “to do” list is sort of like what happens when you lift weights—such as pressing a barbell over your head. Some weight on the bar is a positive stressor—pressing weight can help you get stronger. But what happens if you keep loading that barbell with more and more (and more) weight? Eventually that positive stressor may become a plain ol’ overload stressor—you hit a “breaking point” and your body can’t handle it, or even lift it.
For that reason, consider making a “To DON’T” list—the things you don’t need to do or that or not serving you towards your general goals of less stress and hormone balance.
To take this a step further, try the “top 3 sticky note list”—every morning or night before you go to bed, make a list of your top 3 priorities for the day—the top 3 things that you would most like to focus your energy, attention and efforts towards. The top 3 things that, when you lay your head down on your pillow that night, you will be happy that you accomplished.
If you check all 3 things off, great, you can add more. But for starters, just focus on 3.
- Eat Enough
Are you eating enough for your body? Chances are if your period is missing, probably not.
Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach to the perfect diet, most menstruating women need at least 1800-2200 calories for their baseline functions and daily movement (not counting focused exercise or training). Add approximately 300-500 more calories on top of that if you are exercising regularly (often times the upper end for supporting your hormones and metabolism).
Calories aside, this also entail a balance of the three main macronutrients for total body balance (carbs, fats and proteins). A look at the 3-day food logs of many of my clients with amenorrhea often reveals that many of them are significantly deficient in one—or all—macronutrient arenas (low carb, low fat or low protein).
When it comes to macros, I personally do NOT love counting them—nor think it’s necessary long term—but I do believe understanding your body’s basic macro needs can be helpful for taking your health (and period) back into your own hands.
The body desires balance above all—and this is directly reflected in the balance on your plate too. Baseline macro recommendations for your period’s sake include:
- 20-30% calories from starchy carbohydrates* (approximately 75-150 grams)
- 20-35% calories from proteins (approximately 100-150 grams)
- The remainder of calories from healthy fats (approximately 60-100 grams)
*Carbohydrate counts include starchy tubers, properly prepared grains, root veggies. Non-starchy veggies would not be counted in this amount.
We won’t get too technical here, but generally speaking: You want balance.
Are You Eating Enough?
Here’s a simple 3-step process to check in (with yourself):
Step 1: Establish Your Baseline with a Food Log
A good starting place is to first assess what you are eating—not from a diet mentality perspective, but a wellness mentality perspective. Keep a 3 day “balance” log using a journal or app like Cronometer. (Make a pact with yourself—keep it to just 3 days…this is not about calorie or macro obsession)! In your log, also make notes of any feelings you have around meals (i.e. shaky beforehand, tired, bloated, etc.) This log can help you see your patterns, thoughts and intake from an objective point of view.
Step 2: Assess Your Data
Evaluate your log:
- Are you getting 1800-2200 as a baseline?
- How many carbs, fats and proteins are you getting in?
- Where do you see gaps or pockets of under-eating?
- How do you feel throughout the day (energy levels, digestion, etc.)
- Where could you add more nutrients in?
Step 3: Experiment + Slowly Increase
Gradually fill in the gaps where you see may be “blind spots” or areas where you can add in a little more nutrition. Typically bumping up nutrients slightly can make all the difference—especially in whichever macronutrient you seem to be lagging.
- Have No Fear
The thought of eating “more” may feel scary or overwhelming at first, but consider this:
Food is fuel for your metabolism.
I repeat: Food is fuel for your metabolism.
That is, it. More food does NOT equal “more fat”, “weakness”, “failure.” More food equals nourishment for your metabolism—which in turn fuels your hormones. Think of your metabolism as the mechanisms responsible for running the “engine” of your “car” *your body.
If your metabolic engine is low on fuel, how well do you think your car runs? Or if you put cheap, unleaded fuel (i.e. diet foods, more protein and less carbs or fats, artificial sweeteners, low calories options) into your metabolic Ferrari tank, how smoothly do things go?
Your body is a Ferrari.
When we under-eat, overtrain, lack variety or try to get by on just the bare minimum, we simply don’t function to peak performance. Our metabolism slows—along with other processes (like our period).
- Get Your Beauty Sleep
Simply put: lack of sleep fries your hormones.
Sleep is essential for balancing and activating your hypothalamus, controlling the release of pituitary hormones (estrogen and protestors) and the modulation of sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous activity (stress vs. rest/recovery).
During sleep. your body (specifically your HPA Axis—your stress response system) also goes into “repair mode” of all body system’s (your endocrine—hormone system included). Unfortunately, if you miss out on 7-9 hours of beauty rest, you short circuit the rest required for hormone balance. Lack of sleep is directly associated with elevated cortisol—which in turn further affects estrogen production and balance. When the body is stressed and cortisol goes up, there are less sex hormones made, including testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone.
Additionally, lack of sleep also impairs glucose metabolism (blood sugar). Studies have shown that just a week of sleep deprivation can cause significant alterations in glucose tolerance (i.e. how readily your body’s cells can recognize glucose floating around in your blood and pull it into the cells of the body where it will fuel activity). Since glucose is essential for brain health (i.e. your hypothalamus and pituitary glands), lack of glucose starves the HPA Axis of an essential nutrient. Given that glucose is also metabolized in the liver (along with estrogen and cortisol), if glucose metabolism is impaired, it can also throw these two hormones further out of balance too.
- Cut the Chronic Cardio
Chronic cardio is a direct hit to your HPA Axis and period.
Overtraining isn’t something just elite athletes do. You run the risk of overtraining even if you’re an average fitness enthusiast by NOT varying your exercise and/or NOT allowing time for proper recovery (i.e. under-nourishing your body, not sleeping enough, adding excessive exercise to an already stressful life).
Overexercising is damaging to the body in many ways, but its contribution to chronically elevated cortisol, in particular, leads to the loss of your period.
Some common signs and symptoms of excessive exercise or overtraining include:
- Being unable to fall asleep and/or stay asleep
- Exercise apathy (not wanting to always exercise, but making yourself)
- Feeling more tired after exercise
- Not ever feeling fully recovered
- Continual achy joints and limbs
- Lowered immunity (getting sick frequently or ironically never getting sick at all)
- Irritability/mood swings
- Low mood
- Anxiety (especially if you miss a workout)
- Losing “leanness” despite exercising more
- Inability to gain muscle/tone up
- Being afraid to take a day off of exercise
Many active individuals find it hard to pay attention to what their bodies are so desperately trying to tell them: Rest!
However, when you stop constantly pushing your body to its limit, your body can heal and rebuild properly, improving performance, body composition and allowing for more hormone balance. To knock down high cortisol and rebalance your HPA axis, you need to train your body to handle stress and prioritize recovery—including cutting the chronic cardio.
The “fastest” path to resetting your HPA Axis in terms of your exercise entails taking a step back from the push-push-push mode. No, it doesn’t mean you necessarily have to “completely cut everything”, but the best results I’ve seen personally and in clinical practice have involved taking a “break” from long bouts of cardio, and focusing more on strength, lifestyle movement (walking, yoga) and recovery techniques outside the gym for at least 1-3 months.
- Build Strength (from Inside Out)
Your period restoration “project” is an excellent time to focus on building strength—from the inside out. While you’re taking a break from chronic cardio and overtraining, consider shifting gears to focus on a balanced fitness routine that builds your body up, rather than breaks it down.
After all, your body was made to move, not necessarily “exercise.”
Your body does not know the difference in lifting a heavy barbell versus lifting a heavy log; or running from a bear versus running on a treadmill. Movement—like water, sunshine and nutrient-dense foods—is also a part of “being human”, but that said, it doesn’t mean you have to be in a gym 6 to 7 days per week, slaving away on the stair master or training for a fitness competition.
“Building strength” is about bringing intentionality and balance back into your routine—an opportunity to press “pause” on your old way of going through the motions or checking off boxes to earn your “gold star” in the gym. I
Operation “Period Fitness Routine” to build back your strength (inside and out) includes 3 components:
#1. Balanced Fitness Routine
- Strength training (3-5 days per week)
- Lifestyle movement (walking, hiking, outdoors, play; most days, daily life activity)
- Flexibility (yoga/stretching) (3-5 days per week)
- Eventually HIIT/power and low-intensity aerobics (for now, chill out a bit in this arena)
#2. Regular Recovery Routine
Additionally, “building strength” into your movement routine also gives special attention and focus to the activities you do outside the gym—your recovery routine.Consider the hours and days outside of the gym just as important and part of your “workout” routine. Recovery activities may include:
- Walking and yoga (part of your lifestyle movement & flexibility)
- Body work (chiropractic, deep tissue work, ART)
- Bio-hacking (1-2x per week adding in modalities like PEMF therapy, ozone therapy, hot-cold therapy, BrainTapping, etc. can up level your HPA Axis recovery)
- Sleeping (7-9 hours/night)
- Making space for other hobbies, creativity, reading, etc.
- Nourishment (meal prep, cooking, trying new recipes)
- Connecting (intentional time spent with friends and loved ones)
- Learning (studying topics that interest you)
—All around growth.
#3. Strength to Say “No” to Old Habits
Lastly, “building strength” (from the inside out), in terms of fitness entails tapping into your inner “strength” to walk away from “old habits”, old diet mentalities or old paradigms of fitness—you know, the ones that make you feel guilty for not exercising.
The Bottom Line: Ultimately “building strength” is all about giving yourself permission to take care of your body—not just be a exercise or “healthy diet” robot.
Consider hiring a trainer, coach or working with a practitioner who can help you establish a healthy fitness routine for you, while working towards your goals.
Balance, balance, balance.
- Love Your Gut
Your gut is the gateway to health—including your hormones. Optimizing your gut health is a fast-track way to optimizing your hormones. Try my 3-step gut healing method:
#1. Establish a Baseline
Establish your baseline to check in and see where your personal gut health stacks up.
This step includes:
- Eating (enough) real, varied, nutrient-dense foods. Establish a “baseline” of health with nutrient-dense foods (and eating enough of them as discussed above). Additionally, replacing some inflammatory foods in your diet with foods that nourish your gut may be warranted—even if you think they are “healthy foods.”For example, I used to be a Crystal-Lite-aholic…however, little did I realize that my daily 64 oz. addiction was wreaking havoc on my gut (IBS, bloating, gas) and consequently nutrient absorption…until I replaced it with good ol’ water. Voila! Symptoms were gone!Another example: Spinach. I was obsessed. Ate I 3 times per day—every day. Until I realized, by NOT varying my daily diet, I ended up with “oxalate” overload, IBS and hormonal imbalances from malnutrition of my body. I switched spinach up with a variety of different veggies, and voila! The symptoms went away.
- Stress Assessment
What are your top stressors? Go on a “stress scavenger hunt” to pinpoint the top stressors in your life (we will use these in step #2—weeding).Some examples include:
- Burning a candle at both ends
- Bluelight screen exposure (long times on screens)
- Social Media comparison/endless scrolling
- Trying to be all things to all people/people pleasing
- FOMO (lack of downtime for yourself)
- Less than 7 hours of sleep most nights
- Imbalanced exercise (i.e. doing HIIT/cardio all the time without mixing it up)
- Not talking about your stress (bottling it up)
- Not doing things you love
- Exposure to chemicals in beauty, cleaning and hygiene products
- Plastic tupperware/container use
- Lack of outdoor/nature and fresh air
- Lack of play and fun
- Endlessly Google searching answers to your health questions
- NSAID use (headaches, etc.)
- Birthcontrol and long term medication use
- Disconnection from community/meaningful relationships
- Artificial sweeteners (most commercial stevia included)
- Frequent coffee/caffeine consumption
- Eating packaged, refined or processed foods
- Low water intake (less than half your bodyweight in ounces)
- Tap water (not filtered)
- Frequent eating out (more than preparing/handling your food)
- High focus on calories, diet plans and food rules
- Lack of Vitamin P (pleasure in foods)
- Low carb intake and/or Low fat intake
- Lack of quality protein (amino acids for your brain)
- Dairy (conventional) consumption
- Grains and “gluten free” processed products (with gluten-cross contaminants)
- Binging/Purging and erratic eating habits
- NOT listening to your gut
- Lab Testing (not guessing) —Customized testing can be a helpful adjunct to pinpointing any “root causes” or comorbidities associated with your hormonal imbalances. Some of the most common tests I run in clinic to assess total gut health function include:
- Comprehensive stool analysis + parasitology testing
- SIBO breath testing (if you have SIBO symptoms)
- Organic acids testing (dysbiosis and nutrient status markers)
- Functional blood chemistry
- Salivary/urine cortisol/hormone testing
You probably will not need all of these, but a functional medicine practitioner or nutrition specialist can help guid you on the best tests for figuring out your “baseline”.
#2. Weed (out the bad guys)
“Weeding” involves cutting out the stress—picking one thing to focus on ridding of or mitigating at a time, along with a targeted protocol for addressing any pathogens detected on your lab testing.
For example, if you find you have SIBO or dysbiosis, a short term 30-60 day “anti-microbial” herbal protocol with herbal therapies, like olive leaf, oregano oil, garlic, and other herbs, may be warranted in conjunction with bio-film disruptors, gut soothing compounds and probiotics.
#3. Seed (in the good guys)
“Seeding” focuses on putting in the good guys—things like probiotics, pre-biotics, quality sleep, hydration, sunshine, play, connections, and beyond. Check out this article for some ideas on “seeding” add-ins.
- Support Your Liver + HPA Axis
Your liver and HPA Axis are key organs involved in estrogen and cortisol metabolism and balance. In amenorrhea, these two areas are typically “down”. Targeted supplemental, food, lifestyle and herbal supports for your liver and HPA Axis can be super beneficial as a short-term approach while focusing on the rest of the changes discussed in this article.
Some excellent supports include:
Love Your Liver
- Daily celery juice (on an empty stomach)
- Liver Rescue support
- Liposomal curcumin, 1 tsp, 2 times per day
- Using toxin free hygiene and cleaning products
- Lemon water
De-stress Your HPA Axis
- Brain Tapping
- Heart Math + HRV monitoring
- Replace coffee & sugar with herbal tea + healthy fats
- Adrenal Adaptogens—like Adaptogen Recovery or HPA Balance (1-2 capsules, 2-3 times per day)
- Hypothalamus support
- Quality CBD oil
Human connection is a vital “nutrient” to our health—right up there with water, green things and sleep. Social connection improves physical health and mental and emotional well-being. For example, one big study showed that lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure.
If you’re familiar with the Blue Zone studies, you’ll find that the #1 habit that makes people live the longest is connection to other humans. The Blue Zone cities share this one theme in common—people live in “tribes” or close knit communities, and cultivate strong relationships both with their families and friends. The result? Less stress, more happiness and better quality of life.
In addition to reducing our stress response, strong human connections and time spent with other people also increases release of the oxytocin – a neuropeptide, which basically promotes feelings of devotion, acceptance trust and bonding (all associated with less stress as well).
The take home? Build your tribe.
As you embark upon “operation period restoration” consider how your social life can play a part. Have you been isolating yourself lately in order to workout 2 to 3 hours per day? Eating alone? Putting work and stress before connections?
No, you don’t have to jam pack your social calendar with more to-do’s, but consider integrating intentional time spent in community, with other people or 1:1 catch-ups regularly with friends and loved ones.
Here are some ideas for “building your tribe”:
- Do things you love (birds of a feather will flock together—from tennis, to reading, studying nutrition or graphic design, entrepreneurship, sports watching, dogs and animals, concerts, volunteering, etc.—put yourself out there, and introduce yourself to new people.
- Join a small group at your church or spiritual community
- Do yoga or fitness outside your home—intentionally meet people at your studio or gym
- Strike up conversations with people you see at your usual coffee shop
- Invite an acquaintance (co-worker, mutual friend, etc.) to go on a walk, grab tea or go to a local community even
- Pray for new community and opportunities (specific prayers are powerful)
Want to find out how to get your period back?
Check out my “Period Project”— a book PLUS 90-day protocol I’ve written specifically for YOU to help let“Red Tide” roll again.
P.S. Join the Conversation
Have you lost your period, or lost it but gotten it back? What did you try to get it back? Share your experience in comments and join the conversation.